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Effort Underway To Preserve Louisville’s Iconic Shotgun Houses

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Early next month, a panel of preservationists will select a house in Louisville to be rehabilitated under a new project called Preservation S.O.S.—Save Our Shotguns.

It’s a style of house that symbolizes many of Louisville’s older neighborhoods.

There are many variations, but shotgun houses typically have a long, rectangular floor plan: one room wide, three to five rooms in a row with doorways often on the same side of the house.

One common belief is that the name shotgun house refers to the ability to fire a shotgun cleanly from the front through the back door.

The shotgun style likely made its way into the U.S. from the West Indies and became popular in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offering affordable housing in working class areas.

In Louisville, they’re a part of the fabric of neighborhoods like Germantown, Butchertown, Smoketown and Portland, but some are showing their age, and Portland in particular has a significant number of houses in distress (top two photos).

“In this area, you’re seeing a lot of blight when it comes to vacant properties, many of which are the shotgun houses, and I think that’s what inspired me to try to come forward and do something and start a program that would really make an impact,” said Marianne Zickhur, executive director of Preservation Louisville, which is spearheading the S.O.S. program. Zickhur grew up in the Portland neighborhood.

Zickhur and says shotguns are popular as starter homes for many young buyers. Others like how their simple design lends itself to fix-up and addition projects.

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Realtors Hoping for Slight Boost in Sales for Summer

Since the recession began, the housing market in Louisville and nationwide has fluctuated significantly from month to month. But local realtors are hoping for a boost in sales this summer.

Greater Louisville Association of Realtors president Lamont Breland says warm weather, low interest rates and dropping unemployment can all boost sales, though he’s not expecting the market to return to pre-recession levels…ever.

“Well I hope not. Those numbers were artificial. That wasn’t real. That wasn’t reality. I don’t know what the numbers are for homebuilders, but there were probably two or three times as many homebuilders back then as there are today,” he says. “I think we’re still trying to figure out what a recovery will be, but I think a recovery will be somewhere around maybe where we were in 2009. I don’t know. It’s hard to say.”

Sales dropped in April and they’ve been low since the federal homebuyer tax credit expired last summer. Many analysts have speculated that unless buyers have reason to fear interest rates will increase, they’ll put off buying—and selling—their homes.

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DDC Releases ‘State of Downtown’ Report

Comparing Louisville to its competitor cities, the Downtown Development Corporation unveiled the first ever “State of Downtown” report to measure the city’ s benchmarks in a number of key areas.

Defined by the 40202 zip code, researchers showed that Louisville had 12 percent increase among downtown workers over the past decade, the largest among peer cities such as Charlotte, Indianapolis and Nashville.

Despite job growth during the national recession, downtown lags behind and is well below average in housing and retail stores.

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First Foreclosed Home Renovated By HUD Sold

State and federal housing officials Wednesday unveiled the first previously-foreclosed home renovated with federal stimulus funds.

The stimulus money came through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization program. Mayor Greg Fischer says the house is one of several abandoned or foreclosed homes in the city to receive a makeover using federal dollars.

“Louisville has received a little bit over ten million dollars of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding and we’ve partnered with a handful of non-profit developers in several neighborhoods. Such as this one here in Newburg, also in Portland, Shawnee, Smoketown, Shelby Park and a few others,” he says.

Fischer says more than 50 additional properties are also being rehabilitated.

The house is also the first in the HUD program to be sold in Louisville. Stephanie Miller, a single mother of three, is the new owner.

“I’m glad to be a part of the NSP program it was perfect timing for me,” she says. “I’ve been working on this for a long time, but I was glad to see that there and made available to me and my family to get this going. I always lived in this area so it wasn’t hard for me to decide to pick a home here.”

Miller says she and her family will be moving in within a week or so.


Kentucky And Indiana Mortgage Delinquencies Remain Above National Average

The percentage of American mortgage holders who are behind in their payments has dropped, and fewer foreclosures are in the pipeline. But Kentucky and Indiana remain slightly above the national average.

According to a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, foreclosures and delinquencies are on the decline nationwide, though both states trail the trend.  Just over 9% of Kentucky home loans and 10% of Indiana loans have past-due payments. The national average is 8.93%.


Local News

New Houses Coming To Southwest Louisville

by Sheila Ash

Demolition is underway on several abandoned apartment buildings to make room for new houses in southwest Louisville.

Construction is set to begin early next year on 38 new single-family homes in the Ridgemont Neighborhood just off Cane Run Road. The houses will replace several abandoned apartment buildings that have been plagued with crime and violence.

The Housing Partnership Inc. will oversee the construction. President Mike Hynes says the project is designed to increase home ownership in Louisville.

“We’ll have down payment assistance available, we want to make it attractive for people to buy in, first time home buyers,” he says. “The Housing Partnership has a home ownership counseling division and so our goal is ultimately to create sustainable home owners and affordable housing opportunities for them.”

The two and three bedroom homes will range in price from 115 to 150 thousand dollars. The 11.5 million dollar project is being funded with federal Neighborhood Stabilization Grant Funds.

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Economists Say Gradual Recovery Likely For 2011

The nation’s economic recovery will likely continue through 2011, but it will be slow, according to a University of Kentucky economics professor.

Ken Troske says the country’s gross domestic product is growing, but that may not offer much assurance, since unemployment remains high. As for Americans with jobs, Troske says they are unlikely to start spending again until the housing market improves.

“For most people, so much of their wealth is wrapped up in housing, and until the situation stabilizes in the housing sector, and as we stop seeing declining prices in major metropolitan areas and rises in foreclosure rates, consumers will remain very cautious, and that’s going to limit spending and other things.”

Foreclosures remain high in many areas, though home sales have increased in Louisville since last year. Troske made his comments on WFPL’s State of Affairs Thursday. Indiana University Southeast business professor Uric Dufrene was also on the show. He said many Americans have been saving money and paying down debt. While that can stave off an economic collapse, it doesn’t cause a recovery as quickly as consumer spending. But, the potential for spending is growing.

“At some point, you’ve got to replace the washer and dryer. At some point you’ve got to replace the refrigerator: it breaks. And so all of that will begin to kick in,” he says. “I think people will be surprised next year.”

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Grocery Store Coming To Park DuValle

Local and federal officials Tuesday broke ground on a new grocery store for the Park DuValle housing development southwest of downtown. The project was funded largely through federal stimulus and housing funds.

The store has been on the city’s wish list for Park DuValle for years, but it’s been delayed due largely to uncertain financing. When the store opens in the summer, it will serve produce to a community that does not have easy access to fresh foods. Housing and Urban Development regional administrator Ed Jennings says that was one reason why the project was chosen by White House officials to receive federal support.

“We didn’t develop this concept, this obviously was around way before the Obama Administration came around. But we’re able to identify and see good projects we can support,” he says.

Jennings says the estimated 200 construction jobs the 4.4 million dollar project will create were also a deciding factor. The store will be operated by the local grocery chain ValuMarket. It is expected to have about 30 employees once it’s built.

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HUD Letter Renews Hope For Museum Plaza Loan

Kentucky officials say they are on the verge of receiving a one hundred million dollar loan to help kick-start Louisville’s Museum Plaza project.

The state applied for the loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses private investments to help finance projects that will benefit multiple communities. Congressman John Yarmuth says he recently received a letter from HUD officials that said they were optimistic the loan could be arranged.

“I’ve never worked on one of these before so I don’t know whether it’s normal, but I will say that the letter would not have been sent if there was not a strong commitment that, if all the things falling into place outside of HUD, that HUD would make the commitment. They wouldn’t have sent the letter otherwise,” he says.

The loan largely hinges on whether Museum Plaza’s developers can secure 140 million dollars in construction loans. Yarmuth says with federal dollars likely on the line, the construction loans may be easier to obtain.

“My guess is that we will see the formalization of the HUD commitment before the end of the year. I would anticipate work would begin on Museum Plaza sometime in the first half of 2011,” he says.

Work on the 62-story Museum Plaza was stalled indefinitely in 2008 when the project became too difficult to finance.

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Ground Broken On New Development Near Liberty Green

by Sheila Ash

Federal and local authorities Tuesday broke ground on the first phase of a new mixed-use project called “the EDGE” at Liberty Green.

The EDGE is a mixed-income expansion to the Liberty Green housing development near Liberty and Hancock streets. It will be made up mostly of houses and apartment buildings.

Developer Bill Weyland of CITY Properties says there will also be a 28-unit building for students and faculty at the nearby U of L Health Science Center.

“We’ve worked very closely with the medical school dean and his staff in order to put together a vision that we think will be very appealing to those students that they have and actually help to allow them to recruit more students and really tie that whole program into this very urban place,” he says.

Construction is expected to begin in the next month. The multi-million dollar project is federally funded.